Antique hunting gear has a valued place in our hearts and minds. Here's why.
What is it about something that our grandfather used for the hunt that makes us want one so bad? Is it the artistically hand crafted old duck decoys, or the old blackpowder horn that makes us feel like we were Davey Crocket? How about that old style, retro box of shotgun shells he had sitting in the closet right next to his old hunting vest, with the vintage license made of paper still in the pocket?
As we grew up craving the hunt, these things were a part of our own personal history. They shaped the way we saw our dads and grandads, and what they did to bring home a wild game dinner every fall.
We saw the tools they used to do it. The gear that they used--now vintage hunting gear to us--seemed like musical instruments that only they could play. All we wanted was to learn a few notes.
This is when we first heard brand names like Winchester and Remington, and got to hear the arguments over which was best. Here's where we learned the difference between hunting equipment and sporting goods, and why that mattered.
And remember that big buck that we all marveled at on grandpa's wall? That's where we all learned a strange-sounding word called "taxidermy."
What else do you remember about the antique hunting gear used in years past?
Just in! Fabulous vintage/antique duck decoys. Cork, foam, fiber mache bodies. Hand carved, glass eyes, swivel necks, some are signed!!! #weship
Maybe the most famous of these are the antique duck decoys and duck calls that the market hunters of yore used to fill the plates of restaurant goers in the golden age of hunting. We now know that terms like "market hunting" and "punt gun" are actually an anathema to stewardship among sportsmen and women everywhere, but to have some of these hunting collectables resting unused somewhere is a feather in the cap for vintage hunting gear collectors.
Google "antique wood duck" and you'll see what kind of market there is for these sorts of things.
One of the most famous names in hunting gear of this type is Herter's. According to the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, "George Herter started his sporting good business in 1936 from his parents' garage."
Herter started making cork decoys for his customers in 1936, but in 1939 he began covering "the cork bodies with a "plastic ink" printed cloth attached at the bottom with a metal ring and wood head. These were their earliest decoys."
Having one of these old originals from Herter's today could fetch anywhere from $200-$500 per decoy depending on the quality. After Cabela's bought Herter's Sporting Goods Co. in 1977, some decoys on the Herter's line were still produced until 1990.
Maybe the most collected vintage hunting gear comes in the form of blackpowder firearms and accessories. Muzzleloading firearms have been a part of U.S. history since its inception, whether as a part of protecting freedom, or as a hunting tool with great accuracy.
Between the antique hunting rifles and the military models, some old muzzleloading flintlocks can fetch anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. One incredibly rare double barrel flintlock sporting rifle is listed on Guns International for a whopping $37,500!
Lets go duck hunting.. circa 1870... A picture is worth a thousand words.. powder horn and hand carved decoy!
Long before we ever had our first car, we had our first pocket knife or fixed blade knife, a compass, and maybe dad's old plaid hunting jacket. For some of us, we had an old recurve bow for our archery needs long before we ever even heard the term "compound bow." We had all we ever needed.
Vintage hunting gear doesn't necessarily come in the form of things we wished we had owned, but in the form of things we used to own that are now long gone. Some things we never parted with, like that first gun or pheasant hunting vest. While we may not use it anymore (and the missus doesn't understand why we still have it), it's that soft spot in our heart that makes us remember our humble beginnings.
Strangely, I feel like it'd be nice to have some of those things back.
When we first started bowhunting we carried an old quiver to hold our arrows long before we could simply attach them to our bow. We even used that old, beat up, leather gun case until it was falling apart.
We shot ducks with our hunting dogs, wearing an old Woolrich flannel or the basic brown and green camo patterns, because that's all there was.
It is this heritage, not the desire for today's new equipment, that holds a place in our hunting hearts. It's not that we don't care for all of the top line hunting gear of today, instead it's that we all are trying to go back to our humble beginnings to relive that first feeling of success. That all happened using vintage hunting gear.
The List Goes On
In the duck hunting genre alone, an antique gear collector can find old Duxbak jackets, heritage strap shell vests, feather pluckers, leather duck straps, grapple anchors, and yes, the aforementioned decoys. And it's not just hunting. Fly fishing gear, especially older stuff, can bring in the dollars these days. Cowboy-era pistols and holsters capture their piece of the pie.
The feeling is not to use these things, but to remember why we used them and when, and to be able to put our hands on them one more time.
For the deer hunting crowd there are primitive butchering tools, homemade gambrels, vintage clothing and photos, even tin signs that once adorned the walls of deer camp. We like to remember those old treestands that we made by hand and all those antlers that graced the walls of our home and our cabins, giving us the desire to leave them for the next generation so that they may garner the same feeling from them that they gave us.
Handing things down from generation to generation might actually have been started by some hunter somewhere in the effort to instill a dose of faith in their progeny. It was their way of saying that the game animals we took before them will still be there to be had for them and their family. They'll be able to pick up where things were left off.
And while hunting gear brands may try to reinvent the wheel along the way, it is the tools and the methods of our forefathers that worked for them that will work for us, and maybe that's the greatest reason why we continue to hold onto this antique hunting gear.